Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ryan & Laura's Birthdays at Campanile

To celebrate Ryan & Laura's birthdays (which are only four days apart), we had an intimate gathering at Campanile, one of Los Angeles' finer dining establishments. It's one of those prix fixe restaurants where they only have three things on the menu at any one time, and yet it still takes three hours to complete your meal. Not that I'm complaining about it because we had a great time!

Campanile, Los Angeles. (01/16/2008)
Campanile, Los Angeles. (01/16/2008)

Making it better was the fact that we were there for the Writers Soup Kitchen, a promotion that began late last year when the Writers Guild of America went on strike. Each Wednesday since then, they've been offering a full three-course meal for the significantly discounted price of $18 if at least one person at the table has a WGA membership card. And since Ryan's brother Tom is a WGA member, it became the natural choice as the place to celebrate Ryan and Laura's birthdays.

Campanile's Writers Soup Kitchen Menu. (01/16/2008)
Campanile's Writers Soup Kitchen Menu. (01/16/2008)

Despite having lived walking distance from the restaurant for six years, it was my first time there. And the place was simply gorgeous, looking somewhat like a medieval castle. After a little web research, I learned that the building was originally constructed to be the private office of Charlie Chaplin, whose studio lot was just up the street at 1416 N. La Brea Avenue (which is now Jim Henson Studios). Interestingly enough, before the building was completed, Chaplin lost the building in a divorce settlement with his first wife.

Inside Campanile, Los Angeles. (01/16/2008)
Inside Campanile, Los Angeles. (01/16/2008)

The other thing I noticed upon walking in was the place was packed! Evidently the Writers Soup Kitchen promotion is working. And proving what a small world Hollywood is, we even bumped into Tom's picket-line-walking buddy Nina (aka the Slackmistress, author of The Slack Daily) and her husband Will, who were also dining there that night.

Cool stained glass window at Campanile. (01/16/2008)
Cool stained glass window at Campanile. (01/16/2008)

The food, wine and service was perfect. I began my course with the vegetarian minestrone soup (it sounded better to me than the other soup choice, cream of pumpkin). For the main course, I ordered the veal which was cooked to perfection (although I secretly envied Tom's herbed chicken).

Architectural detail of Campanile, Los Angeles. (01/16/2008)
Architectural detail of Campanile, Los Angeles. (01/16/2008)

I thought about ordering the chicken, but Tom, who had it the week before, said the chicken was not de-boned. It wasn't exactly the type of place where I wanted to be eating chicken off the bone, so I opted for the veal instead. As it turns out the chicken was almost completely de-boned, with the exception of a single leg bone, which was quite manageable. Thanks a lot Tom!

Laura & Ryan and their birthday sorbet. (01/16/2008)
Laura & Ryan and their birthday sorbet. (01/16/2008)

The meal ended with a duet of freshly-made sorbet, complete with birthday candles (thankfully it was not the type of restaurant where all the waiters gather to sing happy birthday). It was a great meal with great company.

Eva, Laura, Christine, Ryan and James outside Campanile. (01/16/2008)
Eva, Laura, Christine, Ryan and James outside Campanile. (01/16/2008)

The only weird element came after we divvied up and paid the bill. After discussing it, we got confused about the tip amount. We felt we had undertipped. Out of concern that we didn't leave enough of a tip, Ryan, a former waiter himself, asked our waiter about the tip amount. And you should have seen the cold-faced stare he gave Ryan! I think he thought we were suggesting that we over-tipped him, when our motivation was quite the opposite. It was a weird and funny way to close the night.

Note: Thanks to Tom for providing the photos for this blog entry, since the few photos I took that night didn't come out too well.

1 comment:

beastandbean said...

OMG, your pictures are AMAZING! You have to put me in touch with this Tom person...what an eye, what an eye!